Milesian Fables (Arc 1976)
During 1968-9 I was living in a small cottage in the Wicklow Mountains, Eire - happier but still ominous days when Northern Ireland was a rumbling if not erupting volcano.
While at work on Strange Alphabet, a novel with a Greek setting, I also tried the experiment of a poetry-journal. Milesian Fables was the result. Perhaps I should comment on this choice of title. Besides the Irish and Aesopian references, I hoped for my own purpose to vary Brewer's Dictionary definition, but would certainly have no objection to the book's being 'greedily read by the luxurious Sybarites'!
Love of nature in all its forms, then, together with a sense of human exile, is what readers will find here. The poems are dated and presented in the exact order in which they were written. Most of them appeared in the following magazines to which I now make acknowledgement: TRIBUNE, EUREKA, CURTAINS, PLATFORM, SKYLIGHT, SECOND AEON, GARGANTUA, CHAPMAN, MALENKA, SAMPHIRE. Several were also read on the Greater London Arts Association's DIAL-A-POEM service.
“Very good indeed, entertaining, well-made, and with lovely modulations of mood from grave & tender to the witty & ironic”[Vernon Scannell]
“These short poems, celebrating a mood or a moment, have at their best an epigrammatic quality – fresh and honest transmissions of experience “ [Gavin Ewart]
“I like the Snyder-like immediacy and freshness of Alexis Lykiard’s Milesian Fables” [Jon Stallworthy]
“Alexis Lykiard is one of the few post-William Carlos Williams moderns who weds fluidity to formality, incisiveness to limpidity… precisely what the Greeks did so well” [Paul Roche]
“Nice one Alexis” [Fleur Adcock]
“Extremely vivid, the line endings in particular wonderfully handled” [Michael Schmidt]
“Very fine poems. I greatly enjoyed this sequence”[Peter Redgrove]
“I’m happy to say that Milesian Fables isn’t in the mundane bag at all. The poems are individual things, well shaped, and showing a fair amount of selectivity in their subject matter… Quiet, easy moving, and with an inner calmness, they rightly refer to Thoreau more than once” [Jim Burns, Ambit]
“A wide spectrum of mood and incident…Mr Lykiard seems to have adapted an open-form approach in the arrangement of his lines but underneath apparent casualness there’s an alert ear” [Paul Green, South West Review]
”Although his poems are commendably lean and clear-sighted, they neither re-educate us in what we thought we knew, nor convey the ‘sense of human exile’ that his introduction warns readers to expect” [Andrew Motion, Times Literary Supplement]
“Milesian Fables is fine stuff!” [Kemble Williams (ed.) Samphire, 1977]
"A sequence of poems written in 1968-9, mainly written in the country and with a sense of space around them. Lykiard is an accomplished poet, and hones his poems down to maximum effect... on the whole these are epigrammatic and effective."
[Time Out, 1977]
"I'm still reading them. Each of them yields up so many new things at repeated readings. Very cleverly wrought. Thank you for them." [Giles Gordon, writer and literary agent, 1979]
Milesian Fables: The title
“The romances of Antonius Diogenes, now no longer extant… greedily read by the luxurious Sybarites, appear to have been of a very coarse amatory character… Translated into Latin about the time of the civil wars of Marius and Sulla. […} The name is from the Milesian, a Greek colony, the first to catch from the Persians their rage for fiction.
A Milesian Story (or Tale) is one very wanton and ludicrous. So called from the Milesiae Fabulae, the immoral tendency of which was notorious.
The Milesians were the ancient Irish.”
(above entries from
Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and
Fable, compiled by Rev. Ebenezer Brewer, 1810-97)
Milesian as adjective in my book, also suggests, I hope, the (then) especially elliptical, yet lyrical, solo style of Miles Davis. The collection originated from eight months during 1968-9 spent in a remote cottage in the Wicklow Mountains, Ireland.
[Author’s Note, 2021]